Avian primordial germ cells are bipotent for male or female gametogenesis

Maeve Ballantyne, Lorna Taylor, Tuanjun Hu, Dominique Meunier, Sunil Nandi, Adrian Sherman, Brenda Flack, John M. Henshall, Rachel J. Hawken, Mike McGrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In birds, males are the homogametic sex (ZZ) and females are the heterogametic sex (ZW). Here, we investigate the role of chromosomal sex and germ cell competition on avian germ cell differentiation. We recently developed genetically sterile layer cockerels and hens for use as surrogate hosts for primordial germ cell (PGC) transplantation. Using in vitro propagated and cryopreserved PGCs from a pedigree Silkie broiler breed, we now demonstrate that sterile surrogate layer hosts injected with same sex PGCs have normal fertility and produced pure breed Silkie broiler offspring when directly mated to each other in Sire Dam Surrogate (SDS) mating. We found that female sterile hosts carrying chromosomally male (ZZ) PGCs formed functional oocytes and eggs, which gave rise to 100% male offspring after fertilisation. Unexpectedly, we also observed that chromosomally female (ZW) PGCs carried by male sterile hosts formed functional spermatozoa and produced viable offspring. These findings demonstrate that avian PGCs are not sexually restricted for functional gamete formation and provide new insights for the cryopreservation of poultry and other bird species using diploid stage germ cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article number726827
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Early online date29 Sep 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Sep 2021


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